Bluff City officials urged town residents to call, write or whatever it takes to make their voices heard by Hill — who some at Bluff City’s city hall described Thursday as an absentee bully of a representative to residents of the town.
Bluff City Alderman Robert Miller was first to mention Hill, and Hill’s sponsorship of a narrowly crafted proposal for a state law to ban Bluff City’s speed cameras, at a Bluff City Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Miller said that Hill’s bill specifically targets Bluff City and if passed into law by the Tennessee General Assembly would shut down only Bluff City’s speed cameras while allowing those in other cities in Tennessee to continue.
Miller said he did not vote to install the cameras in Bluff City and has a “love/hate relationship” with the cameras — because he didn’t want them installed, but sees that they have allowed the city to fund multiple community projects.
If revenue from the cameras goes away — it’s already declined significantly in recent budgets from its initial heyday — the city will lose its ability to fund those things, Miller said. And that could preclude the city from having $9,000 in new funding for a county library that operates in town.
Miller and every other member of the BMA present at the meeting voiced support for doing whatever the city can to keep the library open.
County Commissioner Ed Marsh has led a push to eliminate county funding for the county-owned library branch. The county spends about $107,000 per year on the library. Bluff City has been providing $1,000 to the library yearly.
Marsh and others have pushed for Bluff City to step up that amount and a $10,000 total has been mentioned as a “reasonable starting point.”
“Rep. Timothy Hill has targeted Bluff City specifically,” Miller said, describing the bill as calling for a ban on speed cameras “in any city that begins with ‘b’ and ends in ‘y’ and has a population around ours. I think we have a bully for a state representative ... singling out a very, very small municipality. That (revenue) is our lifeblood (to funding community projects and organizations).”
Miller encouraged everyone to contact their representatives and tell them if Hill’s proposal is a good thing, if speed cameras are going to be illegal in Bluff City, then they should be illegal everywhere in the state.
“Mr. Hill believes the citizens of Bluff City are not big enough to have a big enough voice,” Miller said.
Vice Mayor Lon Gene Leonard said he agreed with everything Miller said.
Mayor Irene Wells later asked City Attorney Paul Frye if there was a legal way to draft a statement saying the BMA will pledge to fund the additional $9,000 to the library — if the county commission will promise to keep the library open.
Miller said he’d want any such statement to include a point blank stipulation that the city’s $9,000 pledge was contingent on Hill’s bill being dropped.
If the bill becomes law, Miller said, Bluff City will be “in crisis mode next year” budget-wise.
“There will be other cuts,” City Manager Judy Dulaney said.
Dulaney said Hill has never attended a Bluff City BMA meeting — or for that matter, talked with the city residents he’s supposed to represent in the Legislature.
“He has not talked to anyone past Piney Flats,” Dulaney said.
Sullivan County Board of Education member Betty Combs told the BMA she and other BOE members will be visiting Nashville on school business next week and she has appointments to see Hill and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
“I don’t know if he’ll be there, but I have an appointment,” Combs said — and, she said, after hearing about Hill’s speed camera bill at the BMA’s meeting, she’ll be broaching the topic with both men.
“I had no idea,” Combs said after Miller’s description of Hill’s sponsorship of the bill. “Instead of just voting, we need to study who we are voting for.”
Leonard said residents concerned about the issue should also contact Ramsey.
“My hope would be our citizens from our city would voice their opinion,” Miller said, going on to encourage that all viewpoints be expressed on the issue, including both concerns or support “for banning those cameras for Bluff City and not any other city” in the state.
According to the state’s website, House Bill 0314, introduced Jan. 29, and Senate Bill O559, introduced Jan. 30, “As introduced, prohibits the use of unmanned traffic enforcement cameras in certain areas of Bluff City.”
HB 0314’s sponsors are listed as “Hill T, Lundberg, Hill M, McManus, Rogers.”
No bill summary was available.
The state website link to the bill: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0314.
The General Assembly’s website lists the following contact information for Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville:
301 6th Ave. North
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone (615) 741-2050
Fax (615) 253-0298